Wharncliff = Tanto without a Point?

Oct 11, 1998
The functionality order of blade shapes IMHO is
1. The "Belly Blade". Meaning anything with a round tip.
2. The Tanto style.
3. The Wharncliff style.

I can see where the Tanto has its advantage, namely in the stronger tip. But a Wharncliff blade? To mee it seems it's just the looks. Functionality is highly limited to... you tell me.
Ahh Ralf, Ralf, Ralf...the Wharnecliff is an extremely nice blade shape, happens to be one of my favorites. As I don't hunt, a curve tip makes it tougher to use that tip when cutting into a box or cutting a pattern on paper.

Edward Schott makes what he has named Lord Wharnecliffs Mistress out of 3V, an 8" blade that he says is very very tough, I intend to purchase one of those if I could ever get the other knives I have sold?? waiting is tough.

One thing about the Wharnecliff blade the POINT is right out there, fast and penetrating...I haven't done any testing but it would look to me that when the point enters a `target' the back of the blade is curved and so as you push forward the back curve causes the edge to slice into the target quicker with a longer/wider cut?

I picked up a 4" blade Wharnecliff when I was at the Blade Show this year from Jerry McDonald, with Stag handles and nickel silver guard, and it is very very pointy, need to make a sheath for it yet, someday.

Ralf, depends on your usage and your preference, some blades punch you're button while others make you yawn, but unless you get a chance and try them, I'd hold off discounting any of them.

My (a little more than) .025

It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand.
Mark Twain


I've been thinking about Wharncliffs a lot lately. I think they are ideal for the "gentleman's knife," meaning a light-duty pocket folder for opening boxes, cutting string, etc.

When you consider many heavy tasks like skinning or cutting carpeting and such, the emphasis is on the belly for maximum edge area meeting the material at a continuously oblique angle. Other tough tasks like shaving stakes and cutting cardboard emphasize the straight portion of the edge for best push-cutting geometry. The point comes into play only in fine tasks, such as cutting through thin material in a careful fashion (paper, tape, caping...)

To use the point effectively on knives with substantial belly, they must be rotated up to an awkward angle, as I frequently find opening packages with the knives I carry (AFCK, Military, Starmate...) A Wharncliff brings the point down to the work, so less angle is required of the hand and better control and comfort is achieved. It does this by entirely scrificing the belly of the knife, a price only a truly light-duty knife that will primarily use its point would care to pay. For such a knife, however, the sape may be ideal. I cannot see the advantage of a Wharncliff blade on larger folders or most fixed-blades.

A tanto also has a point low and in-line with the edge, but it is a far less effective point and similarly gives up the belly to achieve it. It also has a second point that is even more out-of-line for thrusting than the point on most Wharncliffs. The supposed strength of tanto points is a pure myth, as it is possible to create a very narrow, fragile tanto or a similarly robust point on a knife with substantial belly. Greater exploration of multiple/variable grind angles for the point will, I hope, do away with the tanto point in the future (yeah, right...)

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
Wharnecliff and sheepsfoot points are great for chip carving. They're good for a lot of purposes that don't require a belly, often better than a blade with a belly. They're easy to sharpen. I wouldn't want my only knife to have no belly, but fortunately (despite all those desert island threads) I don't live on a desert island and I'm not limited to one knife.
I used to carry three-bladed whittlers and the sheepsfoot blade got a lot of use.

-Cougar Allen :{)
Wharncliffe blades have GREAT penetration. not as strong as the tanto, like a wharnecliffe won't punch through armor, but then when is the last time YOU saw a guy wearing a breast plate over his tee shirt?

I like Wharncliffe and Sheepsfoot style blades. But I really like a comprimise between the two.

I view the Wharncliffe style as more of a Sheepsfoot with better posture, not as a tanto without a point. Because, the Wharncliffe style most certainly has a point.

*edited for spelling corrections*

"All of our knives open with one hand, in case you're busy with the other"

[This message has been edited by Stompy (edited 01 August 1999).]
Tanto myth #2: tanto's have good penetrating charachteristics

Tanto points, either traditional or modern, suck at penetration compared to clip points, drop points, and spear points.

Not only is the tip inherrently out of line with the center of force, but it's also blunt.

This "in line with the handle" buisness is misleading. It's not about being in line with the handle, it's about being in line with the force that's driving that point home. A knife may well have a curved handle, such as on a navaja or saber, that brings the handle "out of line" with the balde but actualy increases thrusting efficiency.

Tanto style points are at the back of the spine of the knife, technicaly "in line" with the handle, but out of line with the center of force. They're also blunt. Also, their asymetrical shape makes for poor penetration, as the blade will have a tendency to slip off target unless you thrust with the point upside down, which minimizes this.

Knifemakers realize this, that's why a lot of "tantos" are actualy angular drop or clip points. The popularity of the tanto is due to three things; Eastern-centrism in martial arts, "tactical" fads, and asthetics. Nothing more. They really aren't singular performers at all.

You can thrust with a tanto, you can penetrate with a tanto, just like you can race with a Yugo. That doesn't mean it's particularly suitable for that purpose.

The best that can be said for them is that you could stab somebody with one. You could stab somebody with a butterknife too. Does that mean that a butterknife has better penetrative charachteristics than a knife with a clip point, like a bowie?

This one isn't hard guys; which has better penetrive charachteristics, a cone or a sphere?

If you like tantos, fine. But don't say they are particularly good at something they're not, and especialy don't say they're the best when they're not.
I was just doing some push or stab type things into paper, with both a spear point blade and the wharnecliff and as both make a hole as wide as the blade, the wharnecliff cuts the entire width with the edge, where the spear point cuts from the point to the edge, if you understand what I mean. Good little cutter!


It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand.
Mark Twain


Okay, I'm going to have to re-test a Wharncliffe. What I remember is that Wharncliffe blades had very very good SHALLOW penetration. Try to get a millimetre or two into something, and that very sharp point goes right to it. But try to do deep penetration into tough material, and as soon as too much of that rounded and unsharpened top portion engages too much, penetration becomes terrible.

I do agree with the general sentiment that a Wharncliffe is a useful pattern especially for gent's blades. For both push cutting and shallow penetration, this pattern works nicely. In any application where you want maximum straight edge length for the blade length, this is the right pattern.

Wharncliffs are great little utility blades. I like mine with just a hint of curve to the edge. The tip can be a great compromise between fine nipping and puncturing and strength, kind of like a spearpoint. I like a good belly in hard-use knives, but for small utility, they are very versatile.

I really like A.G. Russell's utility blade that he has on his one hand knife. It is kinda' half Wharncliff and half spear point. Strong tip, nice linear, useful edge.

Who's signature said "an opinion without facts is just that"??

It fits in here, quite well.

Lack of knowledge of the subject is understandable. I am always studying more and learning more every day. I am only human.

Snick....where are you coming from on your blasting of the Tanto??

As far as I can see, you are basing your judgment/opinion on the so-called "tanto design / chisel grind". I agree with what you've said, no argument.

But, the Tanto is a Japanese Dagger. It's been around since about the 4th century. The point on it is referred to as the "kissaki". Now, if it's penetration was a "myth" as you stated, please explain how the design lasted for 1600+ years.

Just my 2 cents worth. No attacks intended, just making sure I didn't misunderstand what you wrote.

War doesn't prove who's right or wrong....only who's left.
Always beware the argument that says "it's been around forever, so it must be good."

People have been killing each other with every manner of implement for as long as they've been deserving the name "people" (perhaps longer). They have killed each other with all manner of edged weapon, some brilliant and some downright senseless (have a look at a Khopesh or some of the more fanciful Chinese blades). What matters far more than the edge is the skill and the will of the warrior behind it. Japanese people killed each other with one type of weapon because that's what their grandfathers did, that's what their fathers did, and that's what their peers did - would you want to be the guy entering battle with a weird weapon? The same goes for European, Middle Eastern, and all other sword-using cultures that all produced and swore by so many very different kinds of blades. The persistance or widespread use of one shape or another not necessarily testimony to its superiority. By that reasoning we'd all still have rear-wheel drive cars.

Snickersnee is making a very simple argument and he is making it with facts, not opinions. Driving the most cross-section into a target in the shortest distance and with the most obtuse cutting angle is by definition the worst shape for effective penetration. The tanto shape may, by virtue of its cross section, posess a great deal of strength and also create a large wound (though neither is exclusive to tantos), but it requires more force to drive this point into a target than one of thinner cross section, more tapered shape, or (especially) two edges.

Tantos are popular because they are generally stronger than standard tips of the same stock and because they look cool. Period. I can grind a blade with belly to have just as strong a tip by varying the grind angle, and, given this, I am still waiting for someone to give me one single advantage to the tanto point. Aside from the utility of the secondary tip in cutting steak on hard plates or in clipping coupons, no one has yet come forth with a functionl reason for the tanto point except the ubiquitous "all shapes are good for something" argument.

Am I "against" tanto points? No. As I said, they look cool, and if folks want them, I'll make them. A skilled user will make them work just fine, and Mario Andretti in a Yugo will out-drive me in a Viper any day. But I will state categorically (and, I believe, based on factual reasoning and not opinion) that they hold no inherent advantage over a standard grind with some belly.

Besides, if we were really interested in the traditional Japanese tanto shape, ours would have some belly, too.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
But, the Tanto is a Japanese Dagger. It's been around since about the 4th century. The point on it is referred to as the "kissaki". Now, if it's penetration was a "myth" as you stated, please explain how the design lasted for 1600+ years.

<A HREF="http://www.gemlink.com/~rstein/unji.htm">Tanto doesn't refer to a single design</A>.

The "modern" angled point tanto is an old design, but I wouldn't claim it's been common 1600+ years, at least since the 17:th century, perhaps earlier, more normal rounded points has been common. (I've in fact never seen an antique tanto or Japanese sword with the "modern" point design, only pictures of them.)

Urban Fredriksson

I have not heard anyone (of any athority) claim that tantos pierce EASIER, but simply with less damage done to the point. And maybe you CAN grind a blade with belly to have as strong a piont as a poorly designed, trendy looking tanto. The blade you end up with however, wouldn't be much more usefull than the tanto and would be awkward in appearance and maybe even usefullness. I certainly believe that other designs are more ideal for general use, but if I need a hole-puncher / prybar (example: open up a rolled car), I'm going to use a tanto.

I also have a use unique to the tanto, though it is a little pathetic. In order to pay for college, I work as a custodian over the summers. That angled front flat on the blade of a tanto works as a great scraper when you need to get a table spotless or there is gum on the floor. Hey, none of my rounded or sheepsfoot blades can do it: I HAVE to use a tanto. I told you it was pathetic, but it is legitimate. (?)

Bottom line: You probably don't need a tanto blade. And certainly don't buy one because it's trendy or cool. Any tanto that is trendy or cool looking isn't very functional. Example: Microtech; Chisel grinds.

Oh by the way, I'm a babbling idiot who should probably be put away somewhere for good. This way I wouldn't bother you. Hey, it's six in the morning, and I've been vacuming chalk dust from behind black boards all night.
We should be careful to make the distinction between modern, angular "tanto" designs and the original point style of the Japanese katana. Where the modern Tanto is comprised of two hard lines meeting in the middle, the Japanese katana has a curved cutting point. That was, pardon the pun, the whole point of the Japanese sword: draw cuts. The point was intended for slashing -- for facilitating these draw cuts.


Note the subtle curve as the point meets the blade proper. It's not a hard angle as found on a modern tanto.


AKTI #A000845
And tomorrow when you wake up it will be worse.
Penetrate with less damage compared to what? That statement assumes all other points styles are ground uswervingly identicaly.

As to the long time that Japanese have been making tantos, and katanas, that's because they are a very traditional people and preservation of those traditions have historicaly come before all other considerations.

Remember when the closed their borders to the world and banned firearms so they could carry on the samurai tradition?

However Drew was wrong about one thing, there was no such hangup in Medieval Europe. There was functionaly different sword developed in response to changing tactics and armor ever century or less.

In fact, as time wore on and technology allowed for the implementation of new weaponry, new weapons were quickly adopted.

I'm not going to say one way is better than another `cause that'll start a fight, but what I will say is that you have two different peoples taking different angles on the subject.

Also, the Japanese swordsman was a slasher, not a thruster. That's why the blade on a katana is single edged and curved out of line with the handle/center of thrusting force.

Basicaly, your accusation is false. My comments were not only based on fact, they are fact. They are backed by the full force of documentable fact and reproducable results.

When discussing matters of performance, it's bad policy to take a "if it feels good, do it" stance. Just because somebody likes a particular blade style doesn't mean that it's going to be the best performer in any given area.

The trouble here is, hardly anybody actualy uses these sorts of things as weapons anymore, so for a lot of people there's no reality check. There's myth and then there's fact. I'm not particularly into myth, I much prefer fact. I'm not particularly clingy to outdated ideas, when something proves to be false, I abandon it. When it proves to be true, I adopt it.

The tanto's superiority as a thruster is a myth. Being that this is based on fact, it's independently verifiable by pratical experiment, back by the full weight of the laws of physics, and should be prosecuted agressively, unless you're just a collector of pretty objects with no eye towards functionality.

Tantos don't have a bad slashing point.Instead of saying they're good at somehting they aren't, how about saying they're good at something they are?

Even then, I'm not sure I'd be so bold as to say that tanto's have the *best* slashing shape. Something recurved, like a SpyderCo Civilian or even a kukri has a better slashing shape. But tanto's do have a good one, so just say;

"I like tantos. They look cool, I'm into Eastern martial arts so they fit with my training, and they're pretty good at slashing."
To me, a wharncliffe is easier to sharpen compared to a blade with belly. I can't give any expert or detailed explanation but it is just the simplicity of it that makes it 'work'. A tip that is direct and easily panetrate where you want it, it's just that simple. Currently i'm waiting for my 'custom' wharncliffe from MEL(Madpoet) with a drop handle to aid in cutting force, 53/2 thick almost to the tip to 'aid' the phobia of a thin tip. As for tanto, you know the answer.

Power to the blade and lightsabre.
Bigtim - There is nothing "pathetic" about finding a mundane useful purpose for a knife, especially if the design feature you found a mundane use for was put there to make it look like a "cool" weapon. Now we know that the Tanto point is for having a straight scraping sort of edge that is separate from the main cutting edge that we keep shaving sharp.

Of course, we should all have enough pockets to accomodate one of those Yankee geo-tantos, and also a blade with some belly to it and a Wharncliffe for opening stuff and paring knife duty, and at least a partial serration somewhere in the mix.

Now for Wharncliffe blades, we're lobbying the Benchmade Forum for an Advanced Folding Paring Knife at www.benchmade.com/ultbb/Forum1/HTML/001282.html

AKTI Member # SA00001
I find the wharncliffe to be the best fighting blade design hands down.
A full size wharncliffe 5"+ blade length has outstanding penetration.
As the tip enters the target the curve of the spine forces the edge towards the cut and it keeps cutting up to the hilt.
In a slash the edge will grab into the target and many times will make a cut the full length of the blade.
If ground with shallow bevels the tip has plenty of strength.
most of the knives I make are Wharncliffes and I have never had a tip break.

Edward Randall Schott

Okay, pardon the toe-stepping.

Corduroy, Griffon, Snick....

A Tanto is a dagger/knife. This is my point.

A Bowie is a dagger/knife. Have you ever heard of a "Bowie point" knife?

Making a lousy comparison, the Tanto is a sort of Japanese Bowie. This is what I'm trying to say. A flat, angled edge on a knife does NOT make it a Tanto.

As for historical fact, the blade design dates back to the 4th century. I can gladly give a reference if you need one.

Thank you Razoredj for the explanation. I said a Tanto is a dagger. I mentioned nothing about a design.

Snick...I can only suggest that you contact Phill Hartsfield and ask him about Japanese style blades. He is much more qualified than any of us here to explain the form and function of Japanese blades.

[This message has been edited by tobii3 (edited 03 August 1999).]